ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi said Tuesday he thought the only way NFL players will get the message that head-to-head and other dangerous hits will not be tolerated is if an example is made out an offending player.
“Until one is suspended, the players aren’t going to believe it,” Bruschi said on SportsCenter.
“I think something has to be done because the rule is good,” Bruschi explained. “When they talk about enforcing the rule, proper enforcement of the rule, you need to plant the seed in players’ heads. Right now, players don’t take this rule seriously. You saw it last Sunday. They’re still launching, they’re still leading with their heads, the rule isn’t enforced properly so they’re taking the chance.”
In his eyes, the player that could be made an example of is Brandon Meriweather, who has been under serious scrutiny for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Todd Heap on Sunday that was described by one NFL executive as “egregious” and “flagrant”. Moving forward, the NFL has said it will suspend players for making similar hits.
“If there’s anyone this week that has the possibility of [being made an example out of by being suspended], it’s probably Brandon,” Bruschi said in an interview on Boston sports radio station WEEI. “I hate to say that, but in [Sunday’s] game also, there was an instance where Heap caught a touchdown pass and Brandon also launched himself at Heap at that point and he missed. That showed intent and what his mentality was that game and then later of course he had the big hit on Heap. ... In my mind both of those instances were hits that could have been prevented and Brandon could have made better decisions.
“Unfortunately for the Patriots and their defense he may be the player they make an example of that plants the seed that I’m talking about into all of these other players.”
In a radio interview Monday, Meriweather said he did not intentionally hit Heap in the head with his helmet, that it was a split-second decision.
Bruschi isn’t buying explanations like that.
“Players are saying ‘Well I couldn’t control myself, that’s my instincts just to get that big hit.’ Don’t believe them,” Bruschi said. “Don’t believe them because they’re skilled enough to have enough athletic ability to say, ‘Listen, this is where I am, I need to make a decision now. I want to be there for my team [and not be suspended]. I’m turning and leading with the shoulder.’”
Bruschi, a former Patriots linebacker, admitted that he faced the reality of the consequences of making such a jarring hit during his playing days. In his interview with WEEI, he described launching himself into Todd Collins and breaking the Bills quarterback’s collarbone.
“That was my instance where I had a decision to make where, do I try to make the big hit or do I just try to tackle a guy?,” Bruschi explained. “At that point in my career I decided to launch myself toward his upper body and his head because at that point, you knew about not hitting quarterbacks helmet to helmet or anything like that but, once again, the seed wasn’t really planted in my head that there were serious ramifications for this.”